As Coronavirus Cases Rise in Uganda and Lockdown Bites, a Teacher Commits Suicide Over Hunger

Pixabay/A teacher hangs himself

The Buwenge Town Council’s people in Jinja County woke up to the shock of their lives on Friday 3 April 2020 when a suicide act left one of their area’s citizens dead. The Buwenge police identified Peter Kiirya as the teacher who they found hanging in his room. Peter Kiirya was a St. Mary’s College Buwenge, a Fine Art teacher.

The justification for Kiirya’s death may have stemmed from a shortage of food. One of his neighbors who introduced himself as John Dikusoka clarified that fact. According to St. Mary’s College Buwenge, Director of Studies (D.O.S), James Otim, the deceased was, indeed, one of the school’s pioneer teachers. He had spent more than 15 years in that school.

Later the corpse was moved to the post-mortem health center IV in Buwenge. There are reportedly more than 50 confirmed coronavirus cases in Uganda.

Inside the Life of a Ugandan Teacher

Many in Uganda detest the teaching profession because they believe teachers are as poor as church mice. Several teachers work for over 10 years in the same institution with no salary increment. An average graduate teacher in a private school gets Shs 300000 ($80). In comparison, the government pays a diploma teacher Shs 600000 ($165). However, it is disconcerting that the government pays its teachers better than private schools which are also competitive with a lot of pressure and stress. 

Each year, private school teachers need to have their ears on the ground because job lay-offs are the order of the day. The rampant part-timing in private schools is justified by the low salary payments and job insecurity. Many private school owners don’t pay in holidays, talk of a teacher who works full-time. Many are employed on zero contract terms and this explains why multitudes of teachers queue at the Education Service Commission for interviews, hoping to get on the government payroll. Unfortunately, some get on the government payroll on merit while others use underhand methods to get in.

The Quarantine Enforcement

“From the day the President directed school-going children to return to their homes, Kiirya has always struggled to get what to eat. Previously, he would survive on school meals and salary,” Dikusoka spoke of a wretched life his neighbor was living. 

A week ago, the government of Uganda started giving out food to all the less privileged and vulnerable citizens of the country. The initiative is to render aid to all who live hand-to-mouth and cannot work anymore to fend for their families because of the coronavirus quarantine. Ugandans have been on lockdown since March 20, way before the country registered its first coronavirus case.

The President of Uganda, Y.K. Museveni banned all social gatherings, schools inclusive. Since it was not the end of the month for monthly salary earners to receive their paychecks, it is no wonder, Mr. Peter Kiirya could not afford to buy food. Some of these private institutions take a long time to pay their workers, and if paid, whether late or early, their employees get peanuts. James Otim could not embrace the reality that hunger led to Kiirya’s demise.



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